Refugee Rights: Submission on Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011

On 31 May 2011 the Centre made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee opposing the enactment of the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011. The Bill, introduced in response to recent unrest in the Christmas Island and Villawood Immigration Detention Centres, broadens the already significant power afforded to the Minister or his delegate to refuse to grant, or to cancel, a visa on character grounds.

The HRLC opposes the Bill on the basis that:

  1. it excludes asylum-seekers from international refugee protection on grounds that would be deemed impermissible under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees;
  2. it may result in the return of a person to a territory where he or she faces persecution, contrary to obligations of non-refoulement contained in several international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party; and
  3. it is unprincipled and incoherent for the Australian government to impose sanctions on detainees who ‘demonstrate a fundamental disrespect for Australian laws, standards and authorities’ when the fact and conditions of detention itself constitutes a contravention of international laws, standards and authorities.

The HRLC considers that the more effective and rights-compliant way of deterring criminal behaviour of persons in immigration detention would be to remove the cause of offending behaviours by repealing the provisions of the Migration Act 1958 relating to mandatory detention.